David Watson Hood, visual artist
One Hundred Horses, 百馬 or百駿图.
The subject is taken from Giuseppe Castiglione’s (1688-1766 AKA 郎世寧Láng Shìníng an Italian Jesuit who was painter to three emperors) famous picture (http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/painting-lang-shining.php) which in turn I believe was inspired by an anonymous Tang dynasty painting in the imperial collections. The piebald horse being washed in the river and the tent top right are both direct quotes from Castiglione. I was struck by how many of the Qianlong Emperor’s favourite horses resembled that most recent of breeds the Gypsy Cob or vanner, itself a dream made flesh in the latter half of the 20th century after the war. The sort of horse past generations of travellers aspired to while actually using the cast off animals of local agriculture and commerce. According to legend the reason travellers came to favour coloured horses was because the ministry of war was less likely to requisition them, also having been deeply unfashionable in early 20th century non-gypsy circles they were cheaply available for the foundation stock. Why they were so desirable to 18th century Chinese nobility I do not know. Looking for a contemporary location for the subject, I have set my version of the painting at a horse fair like Appleby or Stow but without the houses, police or traffic.
My work is 1/2 the height and 1/8th the length of Castiglione’s but still plenty big enough for me to make a complete mess of the mounting. The first backing stage went badly wrong my arms weren’t long enough and each attempt to sort it made it worse. If I was 16 and not 60 I would throw it out and start again but life is too short so here it is wrinkles tears patches et al.